Easy on the ear

14th November 1997 at 00:00
SUPERSONICS - FUN WITH PHONICS. Packs of 6 Pounds 11.50 each. Evaluation Pack Pounds 39. Ginn.

Ginn's new Supersonics series offers rhyming texts in four graded sets of six books each. Each book contains notes for the teacher, explaining its phonic focus and suggesting supportive activities for developing phonological awareness through rhyme production and getting children to explore spelling-sound patterns.

The approach does not provide a systematic phonics programme on its own, but provides texts that will support phonics teaching, covering short vowels, consonant clusters and long vowel spelling patterns.Technical terminology is occasionally abused, for example, the digraphs "-ck" and "-ng" are referred to as "letter blends" when each represents only one phoneme. But the activities are simple to manage and appropriate. Phonics teaching is most successful where the texts employed and the input match and reinforce each other.

One traditional complaint about phonics materials is that the constraints on vocabulary lead to in-ane texts and unnatural language that deny the child the support of contextual meaning and predictability. Contemporary writers are aware of this and try to circumvent these problems. These Supersonics texts generally succeed in being fun - but one hopes that teachers will do as advised and read the text aloud to the children, "taking care to allow the rhythms of the verses and the rhymes to catch the ear", before the children are asked to read it themselves.

Consider My Cat Sam: "Sam is a black cat, an I-like-a-snack cat, a drink-at-the-sink cat, a gone-in-a-wink cat I" Interpreting these complex modifiers puts quite a strain on the child's grammatical grasp and working memory. Yet the whole book has such verve, you can imagine children wanting to learn it off by heart.

Some other texts are not as good, but overall these books should add to the fun of practising phonics.

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